Using remote sensing to define environmental characteristics related to physical activity and dietary behaviours: A systematic review (the SPOTLIGHT project)

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We performed a systematic literature review on the use of free geospatial services as potential tools to assess built environmental characteristics related to dietary behaviour and physical activity. We included 13 studies, all published since 2010 and conducted in urban contexts, with Google Earth and Google Street View as the two main free geospatial services used. The agreement between virtual and field audit was higher for items related to objectively verifiable measures (e.g. presence of infrastructure and equipment) and lower for subjectively assessed items (e.g. aesthetics, street atmosphere, etc.). Free geospatial services appear as promising alternatives to field audit for assessment of objective dimensions of the built environment.HighlightsBuilt environment has been associated with dietary behaviour and physical activity.Free geospatial services offer possibilities to assess the built environment.Our systematic review identified thirteen articles on the topic.A majority of studies assessed feasibility of virtual audit with free geospatial tools.Virtual audit offers a reliable method to assess objectively verifiable aspects of the built environment.

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